GOP U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio was in Tampa earlier today, where he appeared before approximately 50 people at a luncheon hosted by the North Tampa Rotary Club, at the Alfano Center.
Before his address, the former House Speaker spoke to reporters about the discussions taking place this week in Tallahassee on SunRail and Tri-Rail, the Central and South Florida rail lines, respectively, that are both looking for funding from the legislature this week. Lawmakers believe that they must approve such legislation to be in line to receive over $2.5 billion in stimulus money that would go towards high speed rail.
Rubio would not say whether or not he supports the SunRail deal.
"I would have to know a lot more about the cost benefit details of the bill," he said several times this morning. "I've been a supporter of rail, but not as an employee program, which I think it's being sold as."
Last week in session, proponents tossed around various figures as to number of jobs that would be created by bringing high speed rail to the state. Governor Crist specifically said, "14,000." But Rubio is dubious about any number of jobs, and thinks its dangerous to throw out such numbers without specific facts to support those figures.
"The bottom line is: Is it a transportation program? If the cost benefit analysis is a net positive for Florida, then thats good. And thats what its been in the past when I was there . If on the other hand its being sold because it will add a bunch of jobs to Florida, then I think the answer is no."
Rubio has been a relentless critic of the $787 billion federal stimulus package, and today specifically knocked the premise of how many jobs it's created. (The Obama Administration has had egg in its face when it said it needed to pass the program to keep unemployment at 8% - it's not at 10%).
Comparing the stimulus plan with the arguments made by rail proponents last week, Rubio said "I think when you exaggerate the job creation effects of anything, the jobs are not created, whether stimulus or rail, you lose credibility. "
Rubio stressed that he wasn't hip on the information being passed on to legislators in Tallahassee, so he said he could not say how he would vote if he were back in the Legislature on the issue.
Earlier Monday, the House voted 84-25 in support of the proposal.
Introducing Rubio at the luncheon was former State Senator John Grant, who greeted this reporter by saying, "Your radio station hates me." That comment was in reference to Grant's proposal in the late 90's ago to deny state funding to my former employer, WMNF radio. (He strongly objected to the Iris DeMent song, "Wasteland of the Free") of When I informed the former legislator that I was now in the employ of Creative Loafing, he responded, "They hate me too."